June 29, 2016
IN THE MIDDLE OF A CONUNDRUM
Sean Davis tries to find more minutes in a talented Red Bulls central midfield trio
By Kristian R. Dyer
|Sean Davis: “We have a really strong midfield, I would argue one of the best in MLS."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
BigAppleSoccer.com Contributing Editor
HANOVER, N.J. – In many ways, the 2016 season has been as trying for Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis as his rookie campaign a year ago.
Davis, who excelled for the Red Bulls in USL play to start last season and then stepped up nicely into a role with the first team has found minutes in MLS a challenge this year.
With a central midfield boasting MVP candidate Sacha Kljestan, a very positive Felipe and captain Dax McCarty, Davis was always going to have an uphill battle to crack into the Starting XI. But he also hasn’t seen too much time with the USL this year because he is consistently making the bench for the first team in most games. It presents a conundrum.
All of which means that Davis has just 342 minutes played this year, which does put him on pace to exceed last year’s minute total. But that minutes have been hard to come by is no indictment on him as he’s looked sharp in training and has done well in his three starts with the first team this year.
It’s just that the Red Bulls center midfield core is so deep and talented that it leaves fewer minutes at his position than he would find on most MLS teams. This makes moments like Wednesday night where Davis could start in the Round of 16 in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup at the Philadelphia Union a crucial moment for his sharpness.
“We have a really strong midfield, I would argue one of the best in MLS," Davis said following training Tuesday. "When we do have a congested schedule, it is a great chance for me to get on the field and prove my worth to the team and a chance to get minutes, get fitness, stay sharp and make an impact in any way possible. Those are my goals heading into this game and I’m really looking forward to it."
So on one hand Davis is a strong enough player to make the MLS roster and find 10 appearances this season. On the other hand, his being with the first team often means he can’t play with the USL side where he could get more minutes and time on the field.
In his last start in MLS play June 22 in a 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake, Davis went the full 90 minutes and recorded an assist. Three days later he played four minutes off the bench in a 1-1 tie at the Columbus Crew.
It is all part of the delicate tip-toe Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch must make to keep his player fit and sharp while he also provides a valuable option to the first team.
Davis sounded to be up to the challenge and his continued strong performances in training and his occasional opportunities with Red Bulls II in the USL side towards a greater role with the team this summer.
“It’s all about striking the right balance, communicating with the coaches and trying to make the USL games work whenever possible. It’s not easy because the schedules do conflict,” he said.
“I do think as of late, especially with that last international break, I was able to get a few games in and that definitely helps and gives me confidence going into these games.”
His last appearance in the USL came three weeks ago where Davis started and went 67 minutes in a 1-0 home win over the Harrisburg City Islanders. He tallied the game’s lone goal in the seventh minute.